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Porker pucker factor: Scramble for `honor’ of kissing pig enters frantic final days

Carrie Click
Special to the Post Independent

It’s down to the wire, and Stripes is getting nervous.

Stripes is a 4-month-old pig, and this year’s lucky recipient of a much-anticipated kiss – the culmination of YouthZone’s month-long Kiss-n-Squeal fundraiser.

Grand Finale ceremonies take place from 6-8 p.m. this Saturday, Aug. 3, at Two Rivers Park in Glenwood Springs.

“The pig is ready to go!” laughs Mary Jane Carnevale, YouthZone’s public relations director and fundraising coordinator. “We’re not sure of Stripes’ gender, but that pig is ready to be kissed!”

How does kissing a pig translate into dollars for YouthZone, a regional, private nonprofit that serves young people and their families?

Twelve local personalities – from a school superintendent to a couple of bankers to business owners – have offered to pucker up with said pig by generating votes – at $1 a shot – from the public. The personality who brings in the most cash gets the honor of smooching with Stripes in front of a horde of onlookers on Saturday evening.

Now in its 12th year, Kiss-n-Squeal is the main fundraiser for YouthZone, which has centers in Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Rifle and Meeker.

According to YouthZone director Debbie Wilde, the organization has been able to keep 70 to 90 juveniles out of the district court system per year, and more than 300 youth from filtering through county and municipal courts each year.

Programs such as juvenile diversion, which provides counseling, drug and alcohol treatment and public service opportunities, plus crime prevention and intervention are key to the organization’s effectiveness.

“Out of the 90 kids in juvenile diversion, 92 percent completed the program successfully,” says Wilde. “When you consider that this program costs YouthZone $60,000 a year to run, and it costs the state $60,000 per year to detain and house just one juvenile, it’s easy to see why YouthZone is so valuable and cost effective to the communities it serves.”

Although YouthZone has a lot of tongue-in-cheek fun with the Kiss-n-Squeal fundraiser, money raised through the event is serious business, particularly this year.

Earlier this summer, Gov. Bill Owens cut $43 million of next year’s overall state budget. The cut affects juvenile outreach programs and Colorado’s libraries, teachers, affordable housing programs and health care.

The cut immediately causes a shortfall of $127,000 in grants YouthZone expected to receive from the state, which will now have to be generated from other sources.

“Kiss-n-Squeal accounts for 10 percent of our budget, so it’s really a critical fundraiser for us,” says Wilde. “And with these new cuts, 12 percent of our funding has been eliminated. The state’s pot of grant money is no longer available, so we really need the community to support us and our area’s kids, now, more than ever before.”

As of Tuesday, July 30, YouthZone’s Kiss-n-Squeal had some ground to make up. The fundraiser had generated a total of $61,727, and was approximately $15,000 behind last year’s event at this time. YouthZone’ goal is to raise $115,000 through Kiss-n-Squeal.

“Community members can vote at numerous locations around town,” says Wilde, “and you can vote multiple times and for a variety of personalities too!”

Besides the $1 per vote campaign, YouthZone is conducting a raffle with $1,000 cash prize for the winner, Broncos, Avalanche and Rockies tickets for second place, and golf at the Roaring Fork Club for third.

For more information on YouthZone and Kiss-n-Squeal, call 945-9300 or visit youthzone.com.


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